>The following article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 9-11 of the February 2, 2011, issue of Christian Renewal.
Classis Western Canada expands
by Glenda Mathes
When Classis Western Canada of the URCNA met on January 13 & 14, 2011, at Trinity Reformed Church in Lethbridge, AB, it welcomed two congregations and examined two men.
An initial item of business was a request from Parkland Reformed Church of Ponoka, AB, seeking concurring advice regarding the organization of a daughter church, according to Article 22 of the Church Order. Known as “Parkland South,” the group has been meeting in Lacombe, AB, for just over a year. It consists primarily of URCNA members, although some visitors are among the 150-170 regular attendees.
Classis happily acquiesced to the request regarding Parkland South’s organization.
Delegates also rejoiced to adopt an overture from Surrey Covenant Reformed Church requesting the provisional reception of the Orthodox Reformed Church in New Westminster. The provisional membership of the New Westminster church requires ratification by the next URCNA Synod, scheduled for 2012.
The cities of Surrey and New Westminster are in the Vancouver region of southern British Columbia. The two churches have a long and warm relationship with each other, both having been members of the Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches at one time.
The New Westminster church has been independent for about five years. The congregation meets for 9:00 am and 7:00 pm Sunday worship services at 701 6th St. in downtown New Westminster. In January of 2010, the church called Rev. Gary Zekveld, who was ordained and installed last April. At a meeting in October, the congregation voted 100% in favor of affiliating with the URCNA.
Since Rev. Zekveld pastors the New Westminster congregation, this meeting of Classis Western Canada included his colloquium doctum for acceptance into the URCNA. He graduated from Mid-America Reformed Seminary in 2009 and served the Covenant Christian Church of Wyoming, ON, as well as Trinity Reformed Church in Lethbridge, AB, prior to his ordination at the Orthodox Reformed Church in New Westminster.
Rev Zekveld sustained his exam and Classis Western Canada welcomed him as a minister of the Word and sacraments in the URCNA.
The second examination conducted by Classis Western Canada was the candidacy exam of Corey Dykstra, a 2010 graduate of Mid-America Reformed Seminary and a member of the United Reformed Church of Thunder Bay (ON).
Mr. Dykstra sustained his candidacy exam and Thunder Bay URC may now declare him a candidate in the URCNA. Classis also adopted a motion that Mr. Dykstra’s ordination exam would be waived should he accept a call within Classis Western Canada.
In his report on Classis, Rev. William Van der Woerd (Clerk for Classis Western Canada) wrote: “It is always a joy to observe the desire of young and gifted men who aspire to become ministers of the gospel and for them to demonstrate those gifts and give a good account of their training.”
Following his graduation from Mid-America, Mr. Dykstra served a four-month internship in Kelowna, BC, and is currently in the Thunder Bay area. He and his wife, Jill, have an infant son, Kyle.
In other business, Classis Western Canada adopted two overtures regarding ecclesiastical procedures, made an appointment to the songbook committee, and agreed to provide financial support for two congregations through its needy church fund.
An overture from Surrey Covenant Reformed Church requested that Synod 2012 establish a “Standing Committee for Appeals” that would serve as a “pre-advice” committee for subsequent synods. Composed of elected representatives from each Classis, this committee would review all “pertinent material” associated with appeals and “make recommendations to the next synod regarding [their] adjudication….”
As background, the overture cited its intention to prevent a recurrence of the “undesirable” handling of appeals at Synod London 2010, when it was felt that time constraints on the Appeals Committee led to committee work being done during the full session of Synod.
Grounds for the overture reiterated that insufficient time was available during Synod to interview appellants and Classis members and stated that no other investigations could be done before Synod convened. Grounds also were that this would “provide Synod with a more balanced and thorough opinion of the committee’s work” and “prevent possible ‘pre-advice committee’ work during the full session of Synod.” Grounds additionally noted: “This would give the committee a minimum of four months (the usual time between the agenda deadline for synod and the synod meeting) to study the appeals rather than the 48 hours which the committee of pre-advice had at Synod London.”
Classis Western Canada adopted the overture, although Rev. Ralph Pontier spoke against it and advocates the implementation of regional synods to help expedite the appeal process.
“While I recognize the problem the overture addresses, having been deeply involved in the painful process of dealing with two thorny appeals at Synod London,” he says, “I believe a standing committee is not the best solution. We should recognize that one of the strengths of regional synods is that they expedite the appeals process, not necessarily preventing the appeals from going to a general synod, but digesting them in such a way that by the time they get to a general synod, the core issues are clearly before the body and can be dealt with both judiciously and speedily. We should also recognize that regional synods are not a Canadian Reformed invention but are part of our church order heritage from the Synod of Dort. Instead of rejecting them out of hand, we should ask why the CRC corrupted the Dort church order tradition by jettisoning them.”
“It seems ironic that many oppose regional synods as hierarchical,” he continues, “yet we seem willing to readily embrace synodical standing committees which have a far greater potential for becoming hierarchical. The membership of regional synods changes every time they meet and their budgets do not inflate dramatically every year. Although standing committees can serve well, in the history of some Reformed denominations, they are notorious for arrogating more and more authority unto themselves.”
A second overture dealing with procedural issues came from Faith Reformed Church of Telkwa (BC). The overture aimed at holding churches accountable to the Church Order mandate regarding regular church visitors by suggesting the addition of the following question to the existing seven questions on classis credentials: “In accordance with C.O. Art. 27, has the consistory invited the church visitors to visit the council in the past 2 years?” The addition of that eighth credential question was adopted.
Since Synod London 2010 had decided that the Psalter Hymnal Committee should be augmented by additional appointments from Classes not yet represented (Central US, Eastern US, Michigan, and Western Canada), Classis Western Canada needed to appoint a representative to that committee.
After having received multiple nominations, Classis appointed Scott Finch, from Redeemer Reformation Church in Regina, SK, to the URCNA Psalter Hymnal Committee. His is the Assistant Professor of Music and Worship Arts at Briercrest College and Seminary in Caronport, SK. He was scheduled to be ordained as an elder in Redeemer Reformation Church on January 23, 2011.
Two churches requested and received financial assistance from Classis Western Canada’s Needy Church Fund: Redeemer Reformation Church of Regina and the Orthodox Reformed Church of Edmonton for the support of its Grande Prairie church plant.
In executive session, Classis Western Canada dealt with several discipline issues and pastoral matters.
Rev. Hank Van der Woerd chaired this meeting of Classis, while his brother, Rev. William Van der Woerd served as Clerk. Rev. William Van der Woerd concluded his classical report by writing: “One of the blessings of federative unity is to be able to request the advice and wisdom of like-minded brothers in the Lord.”
The Lord willing, Classis will meet again during the second week of June, 2011, with Emmanuel Reformed Church of Neerlandia next in rotation to convene and host the meeting.